HYDERABAD: In 1901, it took the German psychiatrist Alois Alzheimer to identify the first case of Alzheimer’s disease in his patient, a 50-year-old woman. As is evident, the disease was named after him. A form of dementia, Alzheimer’s causes progressive neuro-degeneration in the areas of brain which is irreversible. The healthy brain cells die and the brain cannot store fresh memories. Unfortunately, not many people in the city are aware of the disorder.
The sad part is that there are not many health care centres in the city to tend to them despite that fact that there are around 50,000 patients who need specific care to deal with it. At the same time, several lifestyle patterns are said to be the contributory factors for the disease i.e., the early onset of the disease is on rise. People as young as 42 are being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s thanks to the highly stressful modern life.
Help at hand?
Forgetfulness is the first symptom of the onset of the disease. Across the globe, there is at least one person among 10 in the old age group to suffer from Alzheimer’s. In India, 70 per cent of the people in the aging group have the disease. Many of them are either not diagnosed with it or are not given proper treatment. According to a survey done by NIMS there are around 50,000 old people in Hyderabad suffering from it for whom there are not enough day-care centres. Says Saadiya Hurzuk, clinical psychologist from Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Society of India (ARDSI), Hyderabad chapter, “The brain shrinks and the frontal temporal zone is affected as a result of which fresh memories are lost. A month-old memory that the person has been part of can be lost. The person has problems in performing regular tasks like opening the door, removing clothes or brushing their teeth. The onset is decided by CT scan, benchmark scores determined by qualified neurologists and psychiatrists.”
The centre at Banjara Hills has qualified trainers who help the people having Alzheimer’s through purposeful activities, social integration and music therapy. Since, it cannot be cured, the only thing that can be done is to provide proper care and raise awareness among people especially the families. That’s how the other day they had organised Purple Run, an awareness programme.But in the city other than ARDSI there’s no other day care centre for people suffering from Alzheimer’s. Adds Saadiya, “It’s important for them to be taken out of the home so that they feel integrated. In extreme cases, they can be kept at home, but the caregivers attending to them must be qualified to understand the person’s requirement and urgency of their situation.” Other than them, there are just two memory clinics in NIMS and Asha Clinic which are not enough.
Are young people also at risk?
Rachna (name changed on request) a 42-year-old marketing manager working for an MNC started showing symptoms of dementia. She’d keep sandwiches in shoe-boxes or face difficulty tying her bun; one day when she forgot to return home the alarm bell rang for her husband. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Reason? Though the exact reasons for early onset of Alzheimer’s remain unknown depression due to high stress, no exercise combined with lack of sleep and a sedentary lifestyle can act as a catalyst.
Says Dr Sudhir Kumar, neuro physician at Apollo Hospitals, “There’s another kind of dementia known as pseudo dementia which can happen due to extreme depression and can lead to forgetfulness resulting in the disease. Also, lack of Vitamin B12 in diet leads to many neurological problems. High blood pressure and diabetes lead to stroke which can result in dementia.”
Though exact relation between Alzheimer’s and stress is yet to be established he warns that depression can lead to a number of neurological diseases among which dementia can be one.